HC Deb 21 March 2002 vol 382 cc466-7W
Mrs. Irene Adams

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what action the Government are taking to help eradicate(a) debt and (b) child poverty in the third world. [43932]

Clare Short

The UK has played a major role in tackling the unsustainable debt burden of the poorest countries. We led the way in securing the revision of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which was agreed in September 1999. Up to US$100 billion debt could be written off for the 42 HIPC countries. So far, 26 countries have qualified for this exceptional relief. These countries will receive more than US$60 billion worth of debt relief, reducing their debts by more than two-thirds on average. We hope that more countries will qualify for debt relief but substantial further progress will be difficult, as many of the remaining HIPC countries are either affected by conflict or have severe governance problems.

The UK goes further than is required under the HIPC Initiative and provides 100 per cent. relief on its bilateral debts to countries once they qualify, and holds any debt repayments 'in trust' in the meantime. The Government have already cancelled their aid debts to all the poorest countries, not just HIPC. The UK is also the second largest contributor (US$306 million) to the HIPC Trust Fund to help international financial institutions meet their share of HIPC costs.

We seek to reduce the poverty of children, which causes suffering to today's children and jeopardises the well-being of future generations, by working to address the cause of poverty and deprivation in the families and communities in which they live. Support for children's rights to basic health care, education, nutrition, shelter, protection from violence and abusive labour, along with sustainable livelihoods for their parents, is central to our work towards the millennium development goals.

We are working to energise the international system to achieve the goals. The goals include the target of, by 2015, lifting 1 billion people out of abject poverty, universal primary schooling, and reducing under-five child mortality by two thirds.